colorful christmas decor

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Decorating our homes is always one of our favorite parts of Christmas.  Every year we like to mix it up and try something new. We have done traditional red and green decor and black and white decor, so this year we decided to decorate with lots of color!  Charlie, who is 4 years old, informed us that pink and blue are not Christmas colors, but we loved the way they looked with red and green. We made tassels, painted ornaments, used felt balls, and bottle brush Christmas trees to create our colorful Christmas decor.

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To make the ornaments for this year’s theme, we bought plastic ornaments at Michael’s and filled them with craft paint in the colors of our choice. To make these ornaments, follow the instructions from last year’s colorful DIY ornament post. We wired the ornaments to a boxwood wreath and finished it off with a pale pink ribbon.

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Mantel

We added color to Hallman’s neutral stockings by making a collection of tassels for each stocking. We decorated the mantel with our DIY painted ornaments, a collection of green bottle brush Christmas trees that we found at Michaels and Target, and a felt ball garland from Paper Source.

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To make the tassels, we started with a few skeins of yarn in the colors of our choice. To make the large tassels, we wrapped one color of yarn around 4 fingers 40-50 times depending on how thick the yarn was. Then we cut the  yarn and carefully removed the looped yarn form our fingers. We then cut a 12 inch piece of yarn from the same skein, folded it in half, thread it through the middle of the looped yarn and tied it in a double knot very tightly. This became the top of the tassel. Next, we cut another 12 inch piece of yarn in the same color and tied it tightly in a double knot around the looped yarn, about 1 inch down from first knot we tied. Finally, we cut the looped ends at the bottom of the tassel so that they were even. To make the smaller tassels, we wrapped the yarn around 3 of our fingers 20-30 times, depending on the thickness of the yarn. Then we followed the same steps we used for the large tassels in order to finish the small tassels.

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We tied varying colors and sizes of the tassels together, and then tied each tassel group to the loop on each stocking.

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Table

We continued our theme to the table using the same ornaments, bottle brush trees and felt balls to create a centerpiece. On each place setting we tied the napkins with a set of three handmade tassels. to add a pop of color to our neutral linen napkins.

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Happy Decorating!

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Hallman + Ashley

 

 

all i want for christmas…

Johnnie O gift guide

‘Tis the season for gift giving and we are definitely shopping at mach speed these days searching of the perfect gifts for family and friends. There is something so exciting about finding the perfect gift for a loved one, but sometimes it can be hard to find that perfect one…even for our husbands! We of course always include a few of our favorite Johnnie-O items under the tree for our better halves. This holiday we are particularly in love with the look of this plaid button down paired with a vest. Once you check those essentials off the list it’s time to start thinking about other gifts they might love. Not to worry, we have you covered! We’ve put together our annual gift guide for guys and girls. We couldn’t forget about the ladies, after all…our husbands need to know what we want too!

Gifts for the Girls

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1. Layered Charm Necklace ($179-$189), 2. Leather Tassel Key Chain ($49), 3. J.Crew Pom Pom Scarf ($75), 4. Sonnet James Reese Dress ($148), 5. Gorjana Ear Climbers ($50), 6. J.Crew D’Orsay Pumps ($328), 7. Gisele Sleep Shirt ($86) 8. Liv Haley Open Cuff Bangle ($260), 9. Strathberry of Scottland Mini Bag ($340), 10. UGG Cozy Knit Slippers ($130), 11. Joco Coffee Mug ($26.95), 12. Sugar Paper Brass letter Opener ($120)

Gifts for the Guys

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1. Johnnie O Buckley Button Down ($98), 2. Jimmy Fallon for J.Crew Pocket Dial ($48), 3. Marcel Pajama Pant ($128) 4. Bacon and Eggleston T-shirt ($48) 5. Shake Cocktail Book ($18.49), 6. SeaVees Sneakers ($108), 7. S’well Water Bottle ($45), 8. Johnnie O Marshall Jacket ($195), 9. Cooler Tube (24.95) 10. Harwick Duffle Bag ($98) 11. Working Man’s Hygiene Kit ($98)

Many of the items on last year’s gift guide are still available in case you need a few more ideas!

Happy Shopping!

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Ashley + Hallman

our favorite chapter books for kids

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There is almost nothing better than curling up with a good book, especially when it’s one you can read aloud to your kids. We absolutely love reading to our kids, and we are so excited that they are now ready to go beyond picture books and begin reading their first chapter books. While our kids might not be ready for some of our old favorites like Harry Potter or Anne of Green Gables, they are ready take a jump into the world of chapter books for young children. These are generally books that still have a few pictures, are made up of 5-10 short chapters and include concepts that aren’t too difficult for younger kids to understand. We’ve put together a selection of our current favorites to help start your own library:

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1. Dory Fantasmagory, by Abby Hanlon, is a delightful book about a precocious little girl who is the youngest of three children. Her older siblings think she is too much of a baby to play with, so she uses her vivid imagination to create a world of her own.

2. Fancy Nancy chapter books, by Jane O’Connor. Any girl who loved Fancy Nancy picture books will love the Fancy Nancy chapter books! Nancy Clancy and her friend Bree are up to more adventures and problem solving in classic dressed-up Fancy Nancy style.

3. Magic Tree House books, by Mary Pope Osborne. This fantastic series is about Annie and Jack, a brother and sister who discover a magic tree house that lets them travel back in time to have the most fabulous adventures. There are 51 books in this highly entertaining series and we all end up learning a little history from each book…including the grown ups!

4. My Father’s Dragon, by Ruth Stiles Gannett, is a classic story about a young boy who runs away to Wild Island to rescue a flying baby dragon with the help of two dozen pink lollipops, rubber bands, chewing gum, and a fine-toothed comb. This magical book is part of a trilogy that includes Elmer and the Dragon and The Dragons of Blueland.

5. The Mercy Watson series, by Kate DiCamillo, is about a charming pig (Mercy) adopted and beloved by the Watson family, whose silly shenanigans, narrow escapes and heroic feats are a constant source of hysterical entertainment.

6. The Mrs. Noodlekugel series, by Daniel Pinkwater. This charming series is about Nick and Maxine, a brother and sister, who live in an apartment in the city and discover a small old house with a garden while looking out their window. When they sneak over to the house they discover silly Mrs. Noodlekugel and her talking cat. Each book includes whimsical tales of Nick and Maxine’s adventures with Mrs. Noodlekugel and her furry friends.

7. The Princess in Black series, by Shannon and Dean Hale. This series is perfect for the girl obsessed with princesses. Princess Magnolia may look like the perfect princess in her tiaras and ball gowns, but she’s really the Princess in Black, a clever super hero that saves the day!

8. The Year of Billy Miller, by Kevion Henkes. This funny story about friendship, sibling rivalry, and elementary school follows the life of Billy Miller on his journey through second grade. As the year goes by Billy learns to navigate his school, appreciate his little sister, and help out his mom and dad.

Happy reading!

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Ashley + Hallman

summer reading list

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Is there anything better than reading a book on a Summer afternoon? While we may not have endless hours to laze away by the pool with our nose in a book, we are hoping to steal a few peaceful moments this Summer to relax and enjoy a great read. There are always so many great books out there to choose from that it’s hard to know where to begin! Whether you like romantic fluff, historical drama, a poignant slice of life or a great piece of non-fiction, this list has something for everyone:

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1. Hallman’s mom described the The Nightingale as “a beautifully written and intense book that you cannot put down”. Kristen Hannah’s story of two very different sisters in Nazi-occupied France and their dangerous paths for survival will draw you in and keep you nervously reading until the end.

2.  The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japenese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo is one of those books we kept hearing people talk about again and again so we wanted to see what all the chatter was about. This book sets out to help you clear your clutter in a one-time organizing effort where anything that does not “spark joy” should be removed from your life .This best seller shows you the “unique magic of a tidy a home” and how it can inspire you daily. We are on board!

3. The Royal We by Heather Cocks is one of those guilty pleasures that you can’t put down until you are finished. A novel that reads like it was loosely based the courtship of Kate and Wills themselves, this book follows the tumultuous romance between Rebecca Porter, the quintessential American girl next door and Prince Nicholas, the future king of England. The Royal We is the perfect fun and easy beach read…let’s just say Ashley stayed up until 1:30am the other night huddled under the covers reading.

4. Steve Martin is such a talent. What can this man not do? We loved Shop Girl and An Object of Beauty  is even better. This book is set in the New York art world centering around the ambitious Lacey Yeager and while you may not like Lacey, you will be compelled by her story.

5. If you enjoyed Anita Diamant’s The Red Tent you will love The Boston Girl. Told through the eyes of eighty year old Addie, this story looks back on how the events of her life and decisions she made as an intelligent and curious young jewish woman in the early 1900’s shaped who she is today. Addie recalls her adventures with compassion and a wicked sense of humor.

6. Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt is one of our favorite books. It follows the life of a fourteen year old girl and her beloved uncle who is dying of AIDS in the 1980’s. The story is a tender and emotional story of love and loss and definitely a tear jerker!

If you need more suggestions, check out our book club reads from earlier this year.

Happy Reading!

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Hallman + Ashley

the un-princess

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Determined to encourage Mia to be a confident, unique and decidedly “un-princessy” girl I did everything I could to prevent the inevitable. I made sure there wasn’t a stitch of pink in her nursery, I steered clear of pink clothes and wouldn’t let her wear anything with the word princess on it. Lo and behold around 18 months she became obsessed with tutus and crowns and all my passive aggressive “un-princessing” went right out the window. We decided to let her run with it, and for the past few years we have had a fabulously imaginative, pincessy household that will forever be covered in glitter from her of costumes. However, we have one caveat, we want to make sure she will never be the damsel in distress that so many of the old fairy tales convey. We want her to grow to be a princess of today, and there are so many wonderful children’s books that will quench every little princesses’ fairy tale fantasy, but not make us parents cringe at the thought of another damsel waiting for a knight in shining armour to come to the rescue:

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1. Do Princesses Make Happy Campers, by Carmela LeVigna Coyle. Through rain and sunshine, fairy houses and fishing, this happy camper discovers that lots of fresh air and looking on the bright side are all a girl needs to make her a princess. We are big fans of Carmela LeVigna Coyle’s books about a little girl and her desire to be a princess that loves to hike, ride her bike, swing from trees and even have bad days. Check out: Do Princesses Wear Hiking Boots?, Do Princesses Scrape their Knees?, Do Princesses Have Best Friends Forever?, and Do Princesses Really Kiss Frogs?

2. Don’t Kiss The Frog, by Fiona Waters is a darling collection of princess stories with attitude, featuring tales of many young sleepy, sporty, clumsy, brave, resourceful and curious princesses.

3. Lovabye Dragon, by Barbara Joosse is an endearing story about a dragon who follows a young princess’s trail of tears, and the unlikely friendship between the two that ensues.

4. Part-time Princess, by Deborah Underwood. We love this tale of a young girl who enters a magical kingdom after she falls asleep each night. In her fairy tale dreams she is a brave princess whose days are filled with putting out fires, fighting dragons and dancing with trolls at the ball.

5. Not All Princesses Dress In Pink, by Jane Yole. Jane Yole’s fabulous book shows that girls can jump in mud puddles and climb trees, play sports and make messes—all while wearing their tiaras!

6. My Name Is Not Isabella, by Jennifer Fosberry. So this isn’t a book about princesses, but we still love this tale about a little girl’s wild imagination and how she pretends to be various women in history throughout the course of a day. A nice little bonus is the short summary and photo of each historical woman in the appendix so that your child can discover more about these amazing women…including their own mom! If you enjoy this book, you can also check out Jennifer Fosberry’s others: Isabella: Girl on the Go, My Name Is Not Alexandar, Isabella: Star of the Story.

7. Rad American Women A-Z, by Kate Schatz is a twist on your typical alphabet book. For each letter, Kate Schutz features an influential American woman who helped shaped where we live. The book features, musicians, actresses, athletes and much more! We also loved learning about many of these women ourselves!

8. The Paper Bag Princess, by Robert Munsch. This “not so typical” princess book has been around for decades, but we still love the story and just had to include it! When a dragon destroys her castle and all her belongings, then snatches her fiancé, this princess dons a paper bag and runs off to rescue her prince charming. This resourceful princess, outsmarts the dragon and rescues her prince.

9. Sleeping Cinderella And Other Princess Mix-ups, by Stephanie Clarkson. We love this silly tale about four classic princesses switching places, yearning for a different life. But when they find out their new life isn’t all they’d hoped, they decide to switch back. Instead of going back to the way their lives were before they make a few changes so they can create their own new happily ever after.

Happy Reading!

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Ashley

book club reads

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We are avid readers so naturally our Book Club is among our favorite activities! Despite what our husbands think, book club is not just a giggly girl’s night ensconced in friends, food and wine…we do actually talk about the books we read. From salacious, gossipy novels to serious memoirs, we love them all and here are just a few of our favorites…it was so hard to narrow it down to just eight!

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1. Rules of Civility by Amor Towles. This thrilling tale of two young women making their way in 1920s New York was one of those novels that kept us up until 2 AM! We liken it to a female version of the Great Gatsby.

2. Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty. Oh, what can we say about Big Little Lies other than it was such fun that we could not put it down! Big Little Lies is a brilliant take on ex-husbands and second wives, mothers and daughters, schoolyard scandal, and the dangerous little lies we tell ourselves just to survive. Check out Liane Moriarty’s other books The Husband’s Secret and What Alice Forgot.

3. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doeer. A beautifully interwoven tale of a French girl and a German boy during World War II, and how their lives eventually converge in the small French town of Saint Malo towards the end of the war. Admist the hate and destruction of World War II, Doeer brings to light the ways in which people try to be good to one another.

4. The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom. A historical fiction novel set in the pre-civil war South, this book spans the life of a young orphan girl and how she navigates her way through the complexities of life and her roles as an indentured servant and then as a socialite.

5. Sister by Rosamund Lupton. This book is a suspenseful thriller about a woman’s headlong search to find her sister’s killer and all the secrets and fantastic plot twists that ensue. If you loved Gone Girl, you’ll love Sister even more!

6. Wild by Cheryl Strayed. We know this one is all over the media, and was recently released as a movie starring Reese Witherspoon, but it truly is a wonderful read. Strayed’s memoir of her 1,100 mile solo journey on the Pacific Crest Trail is equal parts inspiring, nerve-wracking and triumphant. If you enjoyed Into the Wild or Into Thin Air by John Krakauer this is a book for you.

7. Daughter Of Fortune by Isabel Allende. A story of a young Chilean woman who follows her love to California during the 1849 goldrush. Alone and penniless she makes her way through a man’s world, gains her independence and eventually finds her true love.

8. Yes Please by Amy Poehler. A fabulous memoir that is filled with Amy Poehler’s witty, wry humor. Who wouldn’t want to spend a few weeks inside Amy’s head? If you liked Tina Fey’s Bossypants, you’ll enjoy Yes Please.

Happy Reading!

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Ashley + Hallman

12 of our favorite children’s books

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There is nothing better than cuddling up with your kids and reading a good book. There are so many children’s books we love, but we picked 12 of our kids’ favorite books that we love reading as much they do! These books are also great gifts!

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1. Rosie Revere, Engineer by Andrea Beaty is a wonderful book that speaks to kids’ fears of failure and what can happen if they never give up on their dreams. The illustrations are spectacular and the story thoroughly entertaining.

2. The Big Orange Splot by D. Manus Pinkwater is a book that has been around for awhile, but it is still frequently requested at bedtime.  We love the message about being true to yourself and the boys think it is silly and funny.

3. What Do You Do with an Idea? by Kobi Yamada is about how to take care of an idea. The message resonates with both kids and adults.

4. Dragons Love Tacos by Adam Rubin is such a hilarious books. Our kids laugh throughout the book. We are also big Adam Rubin fans. Secret Pizza Party and Those Darn Squirrels are also really fun books.

5. Room on the Broom by Julia Donaldson: We love Julia Donaldson and all of her wonderful books. Room on the Broom is our current favorite, but we also love The Gruffalo and The Snail and the Whale.

6. Leonardo the Terrible Monster by Mo Williems was our first Mo Willems’ book and it is still very loved. We also love Knuffle Bunny, the Pigeon books and the Elephant & Piggy books.

7. Iggy Peck, Architect by Andrea Beaty is so wonderful. “Iggy Peck is an architect and has been since he was two.” The illustrations are fabulous and the story is engaging. It is tons of fun to read and adored by our kids. We also love Andrea Beatty’s other book Happy Birthay Madame Chapeau.

8. The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt is a clever book about the grievances of every crayon in the box! The book is illustrated by Oliver Jeffers.

9. The Circus Ship by Chris Van Dusen is one of the boys’ very favorite books. The illustrations are incredible and Hallman’s boys study the pictures. We find something new every time we read it.

10. Little Pea by Amy Krouse Rosenthal makes our kids laugh, even after the 50th time. Little Pea hates eating his dinner (candy) and can only wants dessert (spinach!). Amy’s Krouse Rosenthal’s other books, Little Hoot (about an owl who wants to go to bed early) and Little Oink (about a piglet who only wants to clean his room) are equally as fabulous!

11. How to Catch a Star by Oliver Jeffers is about a boy who wants to catch a star of his very own. We love everything by Oliver Jeffers. Lost & Found and Up & Down are also two great ones.

12. A Sick Day for Amos McGee by Philip C. Stead is a sweet story about how the animals take care of the zookeeper when he gets sick.

We will definitely post more book lists in the future so let us know what some of your favorite kids’ books are in the comments.

Happy Reading!

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Hallman + Ashley